A Woburn man accused in a brazen afternoon carjacking in the South End was ordered held on $50,000 cash bail Friday, as a prosecutor described an unsuspecting medical student’s harrowing ordeal.
The victim, 29, was in her car on Waltham Street Thursday afternoon when Joel Cartagena, 36, allegedly threw open her door, grabbed her by the back of the head, and pushed her to the passenger side of the car. He then held her head down as he drove away, prosecutor Eric Anderson said at Cartagena’s arraignment in Boston Municipal Court.
After crashing into the back of a car, Cartagena fled down West Dedham Street on foot, but was caught after a short chase by a police officer and a bystander who had heard the crash, Anderson said. After the crash, the victim got out of the car and said, “He stole my car and tried to mug me,” Anderson said.
After he was apprehended, Cartagena told the officer he fled the scene because he “was in a car accident, got scared, and ran,” according to a police report.
Another witness who chased Cartagena to a playground told the Globe that Cartagena did not put up a struggle and insisted he had done nothing wrong.
The victim identified Cartagena as her assailant, Anderson said in court.
“[She] did positively identify the suspect as the person who did carjack her, assaulted her, and held her against her will,” a police report stated.
Shortly after seizing control of the car, Cartagena hit a vehicle, but kept going, the victim told police. He turned onto Washington Street, then West Dedham Street, before smashing into the back of a second car. He then got out of the victim’s car and ran, police said.
The victim was treated for minor injuries at Boston Medical Center. Witnesses said she had a bloody nose and bruises on her face.
Cartagena pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included assault, kidnapping, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. He showed no emotion during the hearing, but occasionally scanned the courtroom as though looking for relatives.
On Thursday, police said the alleged carjacking appeared to be a crime of opportunity, and they praised witnesses for quickly alerting police.
Cartagena previously served two years in jail for assault and was out on bail on a shoplifting charge from January 2013, Anderson said. That bail was revoked Friday.
In the earlier case, he allegedly stole two North Face jackets from Macy’s in Downtown Crossing. The jackets were valued at $575.
On Friday, Cartagena was also found with two credit cards he had allegedly stolen earlier that day, police said.
Cartagena’s lawyer, Joseph Griffin, said Cartagena lived with his girlfriend and worked for a construction company and restaurant.
He had been in methadone treatment for the past year, Griffin said.
“He's had no issues with drugs since then,” he said.
The judge issued a protective order preventing Cartagena from seeing the names of the victim and witnesses.
He is due back in court Feb. 11.